Voice of America (Washington, DC)

21 August 2014

Liberia: DRC Sends Ebola Expert to Help Liberia Combat Disease

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sent its Ebola virus expert to Liberia to help combat the disease following an official request by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government, according to DRC information minister Lambert Mende.

Mende said President Joseph Kabila has made available Prof J.J. Muyembe, Director of the National Institute for Biomedical Research-INRB, and professor of Microbiology, Kinshasa University medical school, available to Liberia following an official request by the government in Monrovia.

"We sent our big specialist of this disease Prof. Muyembe who went to Liberia to help our brothers of Liberia," said Mende.

Mende also sought to tamp down speculation that the sickness in the remote northern Equateur province that left several people dead was Ebola.

He said health minister Dr. Felix Kabange Numbi and his team have launched an inquiry into the yet to be determined disease.

"Since this case occurred in West Africa, we have put in a system where whenever we hear a disease can be similar to the Ebola case, a team of the [health] ministry moves very quickly to take sample and start inquiring and sending it to Atlanta or anywhere to make sure [it's not Ebola]," said Mende.

He said test results could determine the type of disease affecting northern Equateur province, which will help inform the government's medical plan to combat it.

Mende said it is too soon to speculate whether the disease is indeed Ebola. He called for calm and urged the population to allow the medical team to complete its assessment of the situation in the province.

"There is no result up to now to say [exactly] what is going on there. We are waiting, but there is no report that we have Ebola here in this country. No, not at all," said Mende. "No [need to] panic."

He said the government implemented new measures to isolate and treat cases of the Ebola virus in the capital, Kinshasa.

"We have deployed teams [to] all borders to investigate any person entering the country, medically. [Here in Kinshasa where many people come from abroad], we have made [available] eight hospitals that are ready to receive any such cases," said Mende. "We have equipped them, we have sent in personnel. We have good experience with this disease that was seen here years ago."

Mende says the government has begun screening all international travelers who visit the country for signs of Ebola virus irrespective of the country they came from.

"All international airports, all ports are now equipped with materials to screen every passenger that is disembarking here in Kinshasa from every country. Not only from West Africa," said Mende.

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